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Olá pessoal! Aqui é a Natália, brasileira que mora em Hikone e eu quero escrever um pouco sobre minha experiência no "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" em Otsu, Shiga. Para quem não sabe, o verão no Japão é conhecido como a época dos festivais ("matsuri"), no qual as pessoas saem de casa com a família e amigos para se distrair e esquecer um pouco o calor. Uma das tradições desse período é assistir os famosos festivais de fogos de artifícios ("hanabi taikai") que acontecem em toda parte durante o mês de agosto.

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No dia 8 de agosto de 2017, eu fui pela primeira vez ao "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai", que acontece no porto da cidade de Otsu, capital da província de Shiga. O "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" é o maior festival de fogos de artifício da região de Shiga e aproximadamente 350 mil fogos são liberados durante o evento, colorindo o céu de Otsu de maneira sem igual.

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Como eu moro em Hikone, na região norte de Shiga, saí do serviço e peguei um trem até a estação JR Otsu. De lá, encontrei com a minha amiga Emily que trabalha na cidade e decidimos jantar em algum lugar, já que tinhamos um tempinho até o início do evento.

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Saímos pela saída norte ("kita guchi") da estação e seguimos o fluxo das pessoas que estavam indo para o evento. Logo de cara acabamos achando a placa do "Saigo ni Katsu", um restaurante especializado em pratos com carne, à 3 minutos à pé da estação de Otsu.

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O restaurante ficava no fundo de um corredor, então percorremos o corredor e entramos no local. Apesar de pequeno, o restaurante era bastante confortável e lembrava bares antigos japoneses que a gente vê na televisão.

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Depois de ficar uns bons minutos em dúvida sobre o que pedir, eu optei por um "tonteki", um filé de carne de porco com molho especial. Além do filé de 200 gramas, o prato veio com salada, arroz à vontade e sopa. O mais impressionante foi o preço, apenas 900 ienes por tudo.

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A Emily optou pelo "bifuteki", praticamente o mesmo prato que o meu, com a diferença que o filé era feito de carne de vaca. Além das opções de carne de 200 gramas, havia a opção de pedir a carne com 400 gramas.

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O menu também tinha outras opções muito interessantes, como curry especial da casa ("kare"), filé de carne servido sobre o arroz branco ("suteki don") e filé com molho demi glace ("bifu demi"). Definitivamente vou precisar voltar mais vezes para experimentar os outros pratos.

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Obviamente, eu e a Emily ficamos muito felizes com o nossos pratos. (^_^) Depois da janta, saímos e continuamos nosso caminho até o festival de fogos de artifício.

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Para chegar no "Biwako Dai Hanabi Matsuri", basta sair da estação JR Otsu pela saída norte ("kita guchi") e seguir o fluxo de pessoas. Há muitas policiais e staffs orientando até o local, então não há como errar. O local do evento é aproximadamente 10 mins a pé da estação de Otsu, então foi bastante tranquilo para chegar.

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Uma dica para chegar no local do evento é seguir as pessoas que estão vestidas de yukata. Muitos casais de namorados aproveitam para assistir os fogos de artifício juntos. (^_^)

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Como o evento é o maior da região de Shiga, há diversos locais para assistir os fogos de artifício. O evento em si é gratuito, mas aqueles que quiserem ver os fogos em um lugar privilegiado e com direito à assento, podem adquirir um ingresso especial, que pode ser comprado antecipadamente ou no dia mesmo.

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O evento começou às 19h30m, com um show de fogos impressionante. Durante o festival, os fogos foram divididos por tema, então havia fogos de diferentes cores e formatos para admirar. Muitas pessoas aproveitaram para tirar fotos e vídeos do céu.

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Além dos fogos tradicionais, havia fogos temáticos com formatos de objetos, planetas e bichinhos. A cor e quantidade de fogos também era impressionante, deixando o céu de Otsu com um aspecto multi-colorido.

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Às 20h30m, o evento chegou ao fim, com outra chuva de fogos. Ficamos tão entretidas pelos fogos de artifício que nem sequer vimos o tempo passar. Para aqueles querem experimentar um festival de fogos de artifício tradicional do Japão, eu definitivamente recomendo ir ao "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" de Otsu!


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PARA ASSISTIR O "BIWAKO DAI HANABI TAIKAI"

Aqueles que desejam adquirir os ingressos especiais para assistir os fogos de artifício do "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" podem conferir a página oficial do evento. A página é atualizada todo ano no mês de julho e os ingressos são vendidos a partir dessa data. A página oficial do evento é https://www.biwako-visitors.jp/hanabi/

Você poderá adquirir os ingressos reservados de diversos sites de compra online. Basta seguir as instruções de cada site para efetuar sua compra. Para aqueles que querem ver os fogos de artifício bem de pertinho e com conforto, é uma excelente ideia comprar o ingresso especial. Lembrando que o evento em si é gratuito, então mesmo aqueles que não tem ingresso podem ir até o local e assistir os fogos de um dos locais não reservados. (^_^)

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COMO CHEGAR NO "BIWAKO DAI HANABI TAIKAI"

Para chegar no local do "Biwako Dai Hanabi Taikai" de trem você deverá descer na estação JR Otsu ou JR Zeze e caminhar até o local do evento. Também é possível descer na estação Hamaotsu da linha Keihan e caminhar até o local. Os arredores do evento costumam ficar bem cheio de pessoas, por isso é recomendável chegar o mais cedo possível antes do início dos fogos! Não deixem de perder a oportunidade de assistir o maior festival de fogos de artifício da região de Shiga!

Great Lake Biwa Fireworks Display 2017

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August 8th is the day of the Great Lake Biwa Fireworks Display!

This year I went with the Hikone City CIR Natalia at Otsu Port right on the lake.

Natalia and I met up at Otsu Station and headed down Suehirocho road, the street to the far left of Otsu station near 7 Eleven.

Even though we met up hours before the start of the show, the streets were already crowded with people on their way to finding a good spot to watch from.

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We walked for less than two minutes before we arrived at the restaurant we had decided to go to for dinner. It was called Saigo ni Katsu Part 2 (yes there is a part one.)

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We ordered a pork and beef steak respectively, and it came with plenty of shredded cabbage, rice, and soup.

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The beef steak that I ordered was very tender and juicy and was absolutely wonderful.

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Natalia and I about to dig into our feast. We ordered the normal size portions, but we were very full by the end of our meal.

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The Restaurant was located down a small pathway off from the main road, marked by the big sign with the Chinese character for "MEAT." My kind of restaurant right there.

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After eating, we headed down toward the lake so we could find our seats. The streets were full of people in colorful yukata looking forward to seeing a really spectacular fireworks show. Once we found our seats, we got our cameras ready and waited for the show to begin!

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We didn't have to wait long before the show began. Here are some of the pictures I got!

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The fireworks this year were full of spectacular displays of reds, greens, and golds.

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Although it was a bit challenging to catch the brief moments when the fireworks were at their peak, here are some of the best shots I got! If you have not yet had the opportunity to go to see this particular firework show over Lake Biwa, I highly recommend that you do!


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For those interested in getting the seats we got!

Paid-entry seating tickets go on sale every year at the beginning of July. Please see this website for more info.  https://www.biwako-visitors.jp/hanabi/
Tickets are sold both online and at tourism centers.
Paid-entry tickets have assigned seats and are right up close to the fireworks for a great view!

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There is of course also free-seating areas where everyone can view the fireworks from. You can access these areas by either JR Otsu or Zeze Station, or by getting off at Hamaotsu via the Keihan Line. My one piece of advice here would be to allow plenty of time to find a seat though as this area is always very crowded, but I definitely recommend that you come and see these fireworks for yourself!

Biwako Valley, Kaizu's Cherry Blossoms

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One pleasant morning in April, we found ourselves at Biwako Valley, a mountain resort in western Shiga.Biwako Valley is more well-known for its Winter Season ski slopes, but this time we visited at the start of their Green Season. The base of the resort is also famous for its cherry blossoms.

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Biwako Valley is on the summit of a mountain, so to reach it we rode the Biwako Valley ropeway. Here we got our first glimpse of Lake Biwa and the surrounding countryside.

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Mrs. Tarao was kind enough to give us a tour of the facilities. The snow was still melting, so not all of the Green Season attractions were up and running. Later in the spring and summer, Biwako Valley offers zip-lining, a ropes course, and a space for kids called "Summer Land."

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One of the newer areas at Biwako Valley is The Biwako Terrace, a cozy café with a beautiful deck overlooking the lake.

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The Biwako Terrace had a nice homey atmosphere and huge windows, so even on cold days customers can enjoy the view. There is also a separate room for groups to rent out.

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The day we visited was pretty foggy, but on a clear day you can see all the way to Mt. Ibuki and the Suzuka Mountains - literally the other side of Shiga Prefecture.

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Maybe it was just us being constantly hungry, but the first thing we noticed upon entering The Biwako Terrace was a display of delicious-looking gelato. Flavors ranged from local tea and fruits to the ever-popular cookies 'n' cream (referred to here as "biscuit").

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We chose the three local flavors: Adoberry, a berry-bearing bramble from Takashima (say that three times fast), and Omi Wa Koucha and Omi Genmaicha, two different kinds of tea grown in Shiga.

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The unanimous favorite was Adoberry. Omi Wa Koucha (black tea) was subtle and fragrant, with just the right amount of sweetness. The Omi Genmaicha was, as Roddie put it, "not for beginners." At first glance, it looks like matcha, but its flavor is distinctly that of Genmaicha, a type of green tea combined with roasted brown rice.

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The multi-level decks outside the café are lined with blue reflecting pools, which complement the colors of the sky and lake.

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There's another lookout point beyond the deck called "Lover's Sanctuary." It is shaped like - surprise! - a heart.

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Speaking of love, here's something we all love: buffets. Since we couldn't decide what to eat, we ended up getting a little bit of everything, from tempura to local red konyaku.

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They also had a good variety of Japanese-style sweets, fruits, and yogurt for dessert.

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Near the ropeway station at the base of the mountain there was a small marche with stalls from all over Kansai selling malasadas (Hawaiian donuts), bagels, and more classic festival food, like yaki imo (baked sweet potatoes).

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Next, we took the scenic train up to Makino, a town in northern Takashima City. Across the station was a small place to rent bicycles.

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From the station, it was only about a five minute ride to Makino Sunny Beach. The day had cleared up, and the crystal clear water made for some gorgeous photographs.

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After another ten or fifteen minutes of cycling, we stopped to take some more pictures. From this one, you can see the cherry blossoms that line Kaizu Osaki Peninsula, our next destination. There were also lots of ducks and a few black kites soaring overhead.

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We finally made it to Kaizu-Osaki Peninsula, which is part of the Biwako Quasi-National Park. It is said to be famous for its 600 Yoshino cherry trees, and it was no lie. There was a great number of families and couples picnicking and wandering among the trees.

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There are a couple docks along the peninsula where you can join boat tours to enjoy views of the cherry blossoms from the lake.

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The landscape of northern Shiga is completely different from the cityscapes of Otsu. In this picture, you can see how sparkly the water was on that sunny day.

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Even for people who like to be present and savor the moment, it's impossible to resist taking pictures (and the results are well worth it!).

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A few stores along the way to the peninsula were selling locally-made sweets. We felt it fitting to have some sakura-mochi (sweet pounded rice wrapped in pickled cherry blossom leaves).

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We took a few more pictures before getting back on the bikes.

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This is a humble example of the kind of photos you can take. The contrast of the delicate cherry blossoms and the lichen-covered bark is especially striking.

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The unique part of Kaizu-Osaki Peninsula is that the journey itself is beautiful. Instead of visiting different attractions and then getting back into a car or onto a bus, here you find yourself surrounded by pink blossoms and sparkling blue water. It was an easy twenty-minute ride to Osaki Temple, and we loved every minute of it.

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Here we are at Osaki Temple. It's actually partway up the mountainside, so you can't see it in the picture, but there's a beautiful view here as well.

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This is a person from the temple signing Maddie's shuincho, a book for collection of shrine and temple seals.

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After getting all spiritual, we stopped by a little shop and bought some tempura made with ayu, a small fish endemic to Lake Biwa. The shop was also selling funazushi, among other things.

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This photo was taken mere minutes before our photographer was drenched by a rather large wave. Fortunately, the two of us and our food got away unscathed.

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A close-up shot of the deep-fried goodness: ayu tempura.

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It was an idyllic spring day by the lake, and we hope to come back again next year.

Trip by Ohmi railway

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On March 25, We got up bright and early for a day of sightseeing along the Ohmi Railway!

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The experience was very different from that of the JR lines we're used to taking, but it gave me the feeling of going back in time.

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The sites were also really pretty along the way with spring just beginning.

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We got off at our first stop in Minakuchi, and headed to the Kafuka Ichigo Orchard for all-you-can-eat strawberry picking.

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For 45 minutes, Michaela and I were allowed to eat as many strawberries as we could,and we definitely tried to make the most out of it!

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The strawberries were really juicy; it was sometimes hard to pick the best ones to eat because they all looked so good!

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I think that strawberry picking at Rokushin would especially be a great activity for families; it was so fun.

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Next, we took the Ohmi Railway to Higashiomi,

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and stopped to visit the house of Hikoshiro Fujii, who was a prominent yarn merchant, with a home that used an interesting mix of European and Japanese inspired architecture and decoration.

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My favourite part was the garden in the back; it seemed so effortlessly beautiful, and though you could see traffic from afar, it was so peaceful and quiet.

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Afterwards, we took a short walk around the neighborhood, until we reached Menmen Tanaka, which was a restaurant that served soba and udon noodles. Both meals were delicious!

I got the soba with a vegetable tempura, and Michaela got udon, which was served with a side of sweet beans and sakura shrimp from Lake Biwa. It's called ebimame, which we were told was a famous food in the Bikwako area.

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When we finished out meal, we hopped back on the Ohmi Railway for one more stop before heading home; Toyosato Elementary School.

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Our destination was a bit of a walk from the train station, but it was well worth it! Toyosato Elementary School was recently made famous by the japanese anime K-On!,

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but it was designed by William Merrell Vories, who was a prominent architect in Shiga during the first half of the 20th century.

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It was really interesting to see the interior of the school building; there's so much attention given to detail, and our tour guide was really wonderful about pointing everything out.

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My favourite thing about the school was the main staircases, which had small bronze turtles and rabbits along the railing, meant to symbolize the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.

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After finishing the tour it was finally time to say goodbye, so Michaela and I headed back home from a long day out, tired but happy!

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Being able to experience so many things in Shiga was really fun, and I'm so grateful that we were able to take part in such a fun day. Shiga is a wonderful prefecture with a lot of history and beauty; my hope is that many more people get to learn about what makes this region of Japan special!

We Love SHIGA BIWAKO

[Facebook]We Love Shiga Biwako

Trip to Nagahama part.2

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Got to explore Nagahama with Molly DeDona! We found some real gems on our day out!

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First, we went to make our own blown glass cups.

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It was a little scary at first, but they were so nice and guided us through every step.

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They were professionals and made me feel like I was in good hands.

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Next, at the same shop, we made our own designs on cups to be sandblasted.

Sandblasting basically adds a cool, frosted effect to your class.

We both decided to do it the difficult way so it took some time, but the result was worth it!

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After all of our hard work, we got some food that is a specialty of Nagahama.

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It's a kind of udon soup. It was deli0cious! The broth was thicker than most and it had a giant mushroom in it! :)

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Next, we walked around Nagahama. We looked at a few shops, including the shop of the figure museum in Nagahama.

It seemed like a cool museum and I wouldn't mind checking it out next time I go!

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We visited also visited a temple as we walked around. While they didn't have an English brochure, just looking at the temple's structure and beautiful shrine inside was worth the visit.

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There were also shops nearby that looked like they sold Yukata. I'll have to stop by and check them out some time!

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Also, the animal that represents that temple or the area is a fox. So, there were lots of cute pictures of foxes on our way to the temple.

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We eventually made our way over to the Plum Blossom exhibit on the other side of the tracks to make our Plum Sake! It was a once in a lifetime experience and I enjoyed every minute! We had visited the Plum Blossom exhibit before, however we had no idea that there was such an event held there.

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Japanese people can make sake in their own house so they had this class.

There was a taste test before where we tried 11 different kinds of sake.

Then, they explained why each sake was different and showed us how to make it.

There was even a company sponsoring the event, so we got a free can of plum juice and sake that we could drink right away.

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I have to shake the plum sake glass jar everyday, but I'm excited to try my own homemade sake when it's ready! :)

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Still, we saw some goodies back in the shopping area that we had to buy so we stepped out for a minute.

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However, when we got back, they lit up the garden out back and it was beautiful.

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After drinking some tea and enjoying some mochi, we took some pictures and said farewell.

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In the end, I honestly never would have thought there would be such gems in Nagahama. I loved exploring and getting to learn more about the opportunities in Shiga. I can't wait to choose another city and explore again!

Trip to Nagahama kurokabe & Bonbai Exhibition

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This is a little overdue, but here is an overview of my super fun Saturday in Nagahama!

Me and Kate had the chance to go to Nagahama, a bit North of Hikone and try out some of the activities and specialties of the region.

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So, the first place we went to in Nagahama was Kurokabe Glass House.

While we were there, Kate and I had the chance to make our own glass cups.

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While the glass artists did most of the work, we did get the chance to shape the hot glass a little bit. It was difficult to do, the glass was molten hot!

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It was really fun though, we got to choose what colors were added to the glass, but we did not get to take it home right away, since it has to cool.

However, the cup arrived in the mail today, and it looks great! I am excited to get to use it!!

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At the same business, you can decorate a cup or plate, and have it sandblasted permanently with a design.

I made mine represent Lake Biwa, and I marked out Hikone and Ootsu in relation to it.

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It was really fun, and it is not very expensive (about 15 dollars). I would totally go again; and I would really like to sometime this semester, I highly recommend it.

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We got to eat Noppei udon, which features a huge Shitake mushroom in with the noodles.

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The broth is really thick, almost like thick cornstarch gravy. It was delicious though!

We ordered a lunch that also came with a rice bowl, which had salmon and soy sauce drenched rice, which was also delicious.

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Lunch was really close to Kurokabe Square, a great shopping center with a wide variety of stores in the arcade style mall, as well as many places to buy souvenirs, mostly of glass figures and tableware.

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There were at least three really nice stores to buy a wide variety of glass cups, plates, hina masturi (For the national Girls day holiday, displays of Heian era court figures are popular to display) figures, and jewelry.

You can also buy Shiga-prefecture specific food specialties.

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We also made plum sake, which was really fun.

I didn't understand everything that was being said because it was all in Japanese, and since I was tired and it was warm in the room, I almost fell asleep for a minute!

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We got to try various umeboshi sake, they were all a lot sweeter than I expected, but I definitely want to try to buy some and bring it home to share.

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I had been to the bonbai exhibit once already, (like bonsai trees, but blooming plum trees instead)

but this time we went closer to sundown, and we got to see all the special lights on both inside and outside the exhibit, it was really pretty at night.

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so,when we went to the bonbai exhibit, it was nearing dusk, and we excited to se the light-up of the exterior garden that wold happen after dark.

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Even through I had been there once before, it was during the day, so we missed the light-up part of the exhibit. The plum trees themselves were rather amazing,some are nearly 400 years old!

They are given constant attention and pruning from their caretakers, and only the best are selected to be displayed in the exhibit.

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One of the great parts of the exhibit is the interaction you can have with the flower blooms, you can lean over and smellthe blooms, and they sure do smell good!

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There are two floors of the exhibit, and the upstairs has a little place where you can sit down and have tea and light snacks. I had matcha tea, and a small sweet, and as we were drinking and eating, we could look out the window as the lights were turned on out in the garden. There is also a really nice gift store on the way to exit the exhibit, you can get a variety of sweets, teas, and other local food products.

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It was a really fun exhibition, it would recommend it to anyone.

Otsu trip part2

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Yesterday, Chelsee and I had the opportunity to tour around Biwako and visit many wonderful locations.

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Our first stop was at a pottery store called Karahashiyaki. Almost everything inside had an owl theme.

We learned that, in Japan, owls symbolize wisdom and scholastic achievements. Their name can be taken to mean many things, such as "no hardship" and "luck kept in a cage for you".

Later on in our trip, we noticed these owls in other locations!

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We then headed to the owner's workshop to learn how to make some pottery of our own.

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I made a mug for my dad, Joe. We had to leave them there to dry, but I am excited to see the finished product!

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Next, it was time for lunch. We stopped at a restaurant called "That Calendar" that had a fun, relaxed feel to it.

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Our guide told us that the restaurant had a capsule hotel attached to it, and that occasionally a DJ would come and play music for everyone.

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On our way back from lunch, Chelsee, our guide, and I stopped in Otsu station, which was also attached to the restaurant.

It was a large information center with many pamphlets full of different events and attractions that were available in the area.

There were even information booklets written in different languages, for foreigners.

Outside, bicycles were available for rent, which I have only ever seen before in large American college towns. The bicycles looked to be very good quality, which made us a little jealous.

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After that, it was time to go visit Omi Jingu, a beautiful Shinto shrine built in 1940.

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We were told it is customary for people to wash their hands before entering in order to purify their bodies.

It was my first time visiting a Shinto shrine, and I found myself wanting to see more in the future.

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Chelsee and I were led to a room where we could pick out our favorite kimonos and try them on.

Even though it was freezing outside, I will admit that this was my favorite part. The kimonos were beautiful and surprisingly comfortable!

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Finally, it was time for our last stop: the Biwako Otsu-Kan.

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Former hotel turned (primarily) wedding venue, the Biwako Otsu-Kan had once hosted many famous visitors such as Emperor Showa, Hellen Keller, John Wayne, and various other celebrities.

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It was also home to a large light garden, which we were able to go explore.

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All in all, touring around Biwako was an amazing and I feel so lucky to have had the experience. Chelsee and I are already making plans to go back!

Otsu trip

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Carly and I previously had the opportunity to take the Biwako tour, with Hashizume-San as our guide.

This tour allowed us to see some of the old and the new parts of Biwako.

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★First Stop:Karahashiyaki

Karashiyaki is a small pottery shop in Otsu-shi. It's main theme in pottery is the owl, or Fukurou, which is a symbol of scholastic achievement.

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The designs of the pottery reminded me of something you'd see in a whimsical-like movie.

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During our visit, Carly and I were invited to take a pottery class and make our own cups.

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Our instructor was a nice man, who we'll call Mr. PPAP, and was also really funny -- he made a PPAP cup in reference to Piko Taro's song and cracked lots of jokes.

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We ended up having to leave our cups to dry, for them to be mailed to us when complete. Before leaving I made a purchase of my own, and hope to return to Karahashiyaki someday before I leave Japan.Next Stop: The Calendar!

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★Second stop : The Calender

Next, we stopped for lunch at The Calendar. The Calendar is a restaurant that's connected to Otsu Station.

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The restaurant had a modern contemporary setting, with a relaxing vibe. On the inside you could find two different seating areas -- one Japanese style and the other side Western style. A bookstore was also included inside the restaurant, but one would think that the books are for show upon first glance.There was also a beautiful outdoor terrace, in which BBQs are held during the warmer seasons.

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For the food it seems that the menu may be weekly or maybe even seasonal, with only a few select entrees that come with a small cup of soup and a tiny salad.

I found it interesting that there was a capsule hotel attached to this restaurant. Next stop: Omi Jingu!

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★Third stop: Omi jingu

Omi Jingu, constructed in 1940, is a shrine dedicated to Emperor Tenji. This point of the trip will be one of my most cherished memories.

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Carly and I had the opportunity to pick out our own Yukata and walk around the temple.

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The process allowed us to see how to properly wear a Yukata. Although cold, the experience was amazing. Final stop: Illumination Show!

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★ Last stop: Illumination Show

Our last stop for the evening was an Illumination show held at Biwako Ostu-Kan.

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Biwako Ostu-Kan used to be a hotel, but has since shut down the rooms for booking. Instead, people can now book the hotel venue for weddings, class reunions, and art seminars.

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The illumination show was beautiful, but cut a little short due to the incoming snow storm -- which was even more beautiful in that it started to look like a winter wonderland.

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All in all, with the guidance of Hashizume-San, this trip was amazing. Carly and I hope to return when the weather is warm.

Hyakusaiji& Fuji Honke part3

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On November 26th, I had the opportunity to visit Hyakusaiji temple, as well as a sake brewery to taste sake and see how it was made.

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First, we went to Hyakusaiji temple. Hyakusaiji is one of the oldest temples in Japan.

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We saw the garden first, and it was beautiful! Because it was fall, there were beautiful maple leaves with vibrant colors. So we sat and enjoyed the peacefulness of the garden and the beauty of nature.

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The main temple is on top of a mountain, so after climbing for about ten minutes, we reached the main temple.

There, we went inside, and then outside of the temple, where a large bell was, we each rang the bell and then prayed for something.

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After our temple visit, it was lunchtime. So, we ate Omi Chanpon near Hikone station.

It was my first time eating chanpon, and it was delicious! I also found out that it was a special food to Shiga, which was also interesting.

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After our lunch, we headed to Inae station, and after a train ride, took a short bus ride to a sake brewery, where we learned how sake was made.

Before that, we played a game where we tasted different kinds of sake and had to match them to their bottles.

Needless to say, I couldn't tell which sake was which.

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After the sake-making tour and the sake tasting game, we had a chance to look around the market area that was inside of the main building.

We tried many local Shiga foods, and drank amazake as well as plum sake. Amazake is not only good for your health, but it is also delicious and great for a cold day!

I don't like alcohol very much, but the plum sake was pretty tasty!

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After a long, fun-filled day, we headed home. I learned a lot about Shiga and its' local foods and culture during this trip, and I am grateful for the chance I had to explore Shiga. It was a great day!

Hyakusaiji & Fuji Honke part2

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At 8:00am Saturday morning, I woke up with Mina and took a bus to Hyakusai Temple to see the fall maple leaves (Momiji).

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It was my first visiting this temple along with viewing momiji. I was really able to appreciate the beautiful scenery I was surrounded by.

The actual temple was quite a hike, but during our journey up the mountain we came across a Japanese garden which settled well into the season perfectly.

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When we got to the top of the mountain we reached Hyakusaiji temple and purified our hands before entering inside the temple. As we entered it felt like we entered into whole different area.

The atmosphere was different and you could tell that temple had a lot of history and stories behind it. I watched people rub the head of a Buddha statue and pray for good health as the smoke of incense filled the room.

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Outside the temple there was a tree that has survived for more than 1,000 years. Next to a tree was a large bell that people ranged after they prayed so that that gods can receive their prayer. I found it mesmerizing and decided to join in as well.

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After our trip went near Hikone station and went to Omichanpon and tried spicy chanpon which is a noodle based soup with a variety of vegetables.

It was my first time having omichanpon and it was delicious! It wasn't as spicy as I thought it was going to be, but it's definitely good to have when you are sick. I wondered why it took me so long to actual try.

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Once we finished eating we went to Inae and visited the Fuji-sake brewery.

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We received a sake cup and had to try out 5 different types of sake and compare which ones were the same. I tried sake for the first time and i didn't find it to appetizing.There was a variety to taste some were sweet, most were bitter, and one had no taste at all. Most of the time sake is drunken when it is warm.

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I had a chance to try Amasake which was really good! It is made hot and sweeter while containing only a small amount of alcohol compared to most sake beverages. We got a tour of the brewery and got to see how it is process. I enjoy Japanese sake a lot more than American alcohol. I think the taste isn't as overwhelming compared to American alcohol and it doesn't burn your throat!

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At the end we met the manager of "We Love Shiga" who purchased plum-flavored sake for us which was sooo good! Along with the appetizers we had with it.

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All in all this fun a fun experience and I'm glad I was able to go. Thank you for this opportunity!